Domestic abuse – the impact on children…

Domestic violence scene...

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/ejwhite

Home is supposed to be a safe place. A refuge from the challenges of life.

But for some children, it’s the opposite. It’s a place of threat. Of danger.

NICE, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, has recently published it’s guidance for services working with domestic violence and abuse.  But what about those of us working directly with young people and their families?

We need to know what we’re looking for if we’re going to protect children effectively.

What exactly are the impacts on children?

In the recent report: In Plain Sight – Effective Help for Children exposed to Domestic Abuse, there is an excellent summary of what we currently know about the impact on children.

Sadly the report isn’t freely available (at least I can’t find it!), but the report of the evidence from children is. Get it here.

Here’s the rub… 

Key statistics quoted verbatim from In plain sight policy and research report, as quoted by the caada press release:

Finding 1: There is a major overlap between direct harm to children and domestic abuse

•  62% of children exposed to domestic abuse were also directly harmed (emotional abuse, physical abuse and/or neglect).

•  28% of children suffered direct physical abuse.

•  In 91% of cases, the direct harm was perpetrated by the same person as the domestic abuse: most commonly the child’s father (64%) or mother’s male partner (25%).

•  A third of mothers and a third of fathers disclosed mental ill health, substance misuse, or both.

Finding 2: Children suffer multiple physical and mental health consequences as a result of exposure to domestic abuse

•  Over half (52%) of the children exposed to domestic abuse had behavioural problems.

•  Over a third (39%) had difficulties adjusting at school.

•  Nearly two thirds (60%) felt responsible for negative events at home.

•  52% had problems with social development and relationships.

Finding 3: A quarter of children exposed to domestic abuse exhibit abusive behaviour

25% of children (equal boys and girls) exhibited abusive behaviours, most frequently towards their mother or sibling, and rarely towards the main perpetrator of the domestic abuse.

•  Most common was physical abuse, present in 82% of cases.

•  Children showing abusive behaviour were more likely to have been victims of severe direct harm.

•  Children were more likely to show abusive behaviour when they were no longer exposed to domestic abuse.

Finding 4: Only half of children exposed to domestic abuse are known to children’s social care

•  Only half (54%) of children exposed to domestic abuse and two thirds (63%) of those living with severe domestic abuse were known to children’s social care at intake to the children’s domestic abuse service.

•  A third (34%) of children who were directly harmed were not known to children’s social care at intake.

•  At least 80% of the children exposed to domestic abuse were known to one public agency at intake – they were therefore ‘in plain sight’.

Finding 5: Children’s outcomes significantly improve across all key measures after support from specialist children’s domestic abuse services.

•  In addition to significant improvements in health, safety, wellbeing and achievement, abusive behaviour in children exposed to domestic abuse dropped from 25% to 7% following support from the service.

Finding 6: There is a relationship between the cessation of domestic abuse and the cessation of direct harm to children

•  The research showed a relationship between the cessation of domestic abuse and the cessation of direct harm to children.

•  69% of domestic abuse ceases at point of case closure after the victim receives support from an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA). However only 42% of victim parents were receiving support from an IDVA.

•  Only 6% of perpetrators were receiving support to address their abusive behaviour.

•  Only 6% of parents accessed parenting support.

(Source: caada)

Final thoughts…

We need to be very mindful of how domestic abuse-of all kinds-effects children and young people. It’s developmental impact can be massive.

Our assessments in particular, should highlight the presence of DV and add it to the list of concerns that drive our care plans and other decisions.

Above all, DV is a child protection issue; and, in my view, is more than sufficient justification for CP registration, if not for care proceedings…

Need more info…

What do you think?

  • What are your experiences of DV with the children & young people you work with?
  • Does the system tend to over- or under-estimate it’s impact, in your view?…

Please let me know what your thoughts are... Leave a comment below or click here.

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© Jonny Matthew 2014 – with material quoted directly from caada

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